Previous Features

From issue 239 - May 2017

Shake, Rattle & Roll
Vauxhall Caravan Park, Great Yarmouth - 17th - 20th March 2017
By Andy Maguire, Coventry

So this year was my second at the Shake, Rattle & Roll weekender at the Vauxhall caravan park in Great Yarmouth. Once again I'm reviewing the weekend for Maggie and looking forward to it. Last year was a terrific line up and although on paper this year's didn't look as good in my opinion there were some bands I hadn't seen so I wasn't going to judge too early. Last year I brought my sister Janet so it was only fair that this year my other sister Ellen and her husband Steve came along too. Ellen was the main influence on my musical preferences back when I was young and impressionable. Her record collection consisted of a number of 1950's music from the Everly Brothers to Buddy Holly, Elvis and many other standards. It could have gone badly wrong if I'd have borrowed Janet's Phil Collins or Gilbert O'Sullivan records instead!

The weekender starts like many these days on the Thursday but work commitments meant I'd miss Phil Haley & His Comments which was a shame. So although I'd planned to pick Ellen up at 1pm on Friday, in time honoured fashion I was an hour late and it was 2pm when we left Coventry for Great Yarmouth. Janet & Steve would follow later after they'd finished work. The traffic as usual on a Friday was pretty busy and with a half hour burger break it took us just over five hours before we were at the Vauxhall caravan park and getting the keys to our 6 berth home for the weekend. The Osprey caravan we were in was perfect for four of us with three bedrooms and an ample open plan area with kitchen and living area and two bathrooms. We needed a quick turn-around so after a cuppa and quick change Ellen and I were looking for seats in the V arena.

It was just after 7.30pm and the room was really busy but we found a table for four and settled in to watch The Roosters. The three piece had the dance-floor full from start to finish with a string of jivers and strollers and were a perfect band to set the scene for the weekend. They're obviously seasoned performers swapping vocal duties throughout the set. I particularly liked 'Calendar Girl' as a stroller and a good version of Scotty Baker's 'Pop The Question'. They finished off with 'Fine, Fine, Fine' as their encore leaving DJ Wolfie Smith to keep the dancers busy for the next half an hour. Belle & The Bombs were on next at 9pm. Belle aka Cath Morris has a voice as good as any female lead for their kind of Rock 'n' Roll. Standard female vocal tracks, 'Mama He Treats Your Daughter Mean' and 'Going Up Country' suit the band's style perfectly. With what could be described as a Welsh super-group providing the backing, Belle & The Bombs were going to be one of the best acts of the weekend. Sister number two, Janet arrived with Ellen's husband Steve during Belle & The Bombs so I missed a few songs but I'm looking out for a CD to listen to and would definitely take a trip to see them again.

Wildcat Pete took us up to 10.30pm and headline act, Terry Dene who was backed by the indestructible Andy Williams and Some Like It Hot. Terry is 79 years old now and looks a shadow of the 1950's pop star who had three hits in 1957 and 1958. But just like a lot of former stars he still has enthusiasm for performing and his voice has survived reasonably well. He sang his hits, 'A White Sport Coat', 'Start Movin' and 'Stairway Of Love' along with other tracks from that era and went down very well with the appreciative crowd. I think as the set went on he seemed to enjoy it more and more and it's great to see stars who've such a rich history and performed with the other acts we all love to this day.

Wild Wax Stu filled the gap between Terry Dene and the final band for Friday night, The Unconditionals. I can't remember seeing this band before and they looked as they sounded; more 1960's than 1950's with a heavier guitar sound and lead singer Scott Elvis fits the sixties sound too. I understand the band are going through a transitional stage at present but I liked the sound and they're all obviously experienced musicians. So if this is to be their settled line up, then they won't be doing much wrong. The British influence was strong with good versions of 'Move It' and 'Wondrous Place' which was a nice contrast to the previous bands. The variety of bands was well balanced and the dance-floor was full all evening. So at 1am it was time to head back to the caravan for a wind down cuppa and reflect on a good start to the weekend.

Saturday morning came around all too quickly for me and although we all had a well-deserved lie in I was last up. Ellen & Steve work well in the kitchen so they made a start on the cooked breakfast while I made a start on typing up my notes from Friday. We had decided we'd go off site and explore the area on Saturday so we headed to Caister beach for a walk after breakfast. It was bracing and a bit bleak especially when the rain made an appearance so we headed back to the car, stopping at a cafe on the way but only as a flying visit because they only had two scones left and we don't share cakes. Great Yarmouth beckoned and the search for cakes was on. We parked on the front and walked along the front to The Beach Hut. A check in the window confirmed the presence of cakes so in we went for rocky road, carrot cake and salted caramel shortbread and three lattes.

Steve doesn't drink tea or coffee so he had a can of pop with his cake. Although there were a couple of DJ's and the band Rockhouse on in the afternoon, we didn't rush back and wandered around Great Yarmouth into the afternoon where the sun made an appearance but it couldn't compete with the sea breeze and the temperature didn't seem to rise at all. Surprisingly we'd walked off our cakes and worked up an appetite by the time we returned to the Vauxhall caravan park and I made a trip to the site chip shop for freshly cooked fish 'n' chips for dinner, lovely.

As we'd collected our fish and chips the queue for the venue was building slowly. 45 minutes before the doors were due to open so by the time we'd got ready to go out it was almost 7.30pm and the first band were due on. We weren't confident of getting a seat but when we arrived at the V arena there was plenty of room and we had a choice of tables to sit at. Rockin' Eddie had just finished his DJ set and had introduced Eddie Martin & The Cruisers to the stage. Starting off with 'Seven Nights To Rock' it took a while for the dancers to get going but you can usually guarantee that a few strollers will do the trick. 'Stray Cat Strut' and 'Kansas City' had the floor a little fuller along with the ever controversial Charleston stroll to a good 'Folsom Prison Blues'. They finished off with a medley inviting a young lad called Mark onto the stage with a small double bass to join them.

It was a slow start to Saturday evening but the room was filling up gradually and by 9pm after DJ Wild Wax Stu, it was time for the world's first gig by The LenneBrothers, all the way from Germany. They looked amazingly like the LenneRockers who I'd seen play their last gig at the Christmas Wildest Cats In Town weekender. This now four piece group also sounded pretty much the same. Not a bad thing at all as they've always been popular and have a good following. So all they had to do was get some new shirts made, embroidered and away they went. They played old favourites such as 'Rockin' My Life Away', 'LenneBrother's Stroll' and of course 'High Class Lady'. They included a tribute to Bob Fish but the only Bob Fish I remember is the Darts singer. And despite a google search I can't find out if he's passed away or if it was for another Bob Fish!

Next on the agenda was DJ Wildcat Pete warming up the dancers for the national jive competition heat with the chance for the winners to go to the national final at the Atomic weekend in the summer. The dance-floor filled quickly for the warm up tracks and although one or two couples left the floor when the actual competition started, there were still plenty of entrants for the judges to sort out. Tapping couple after couple on the shoulders, the judges gradually whittled the dancers down to two pairs, one pair controversially disqualified because they run dance classes in London. So the two finalists were father and daughter Dave & Olivia and Dave & Tracey who had a dance off while the judges discussed their moves. It was a close run thing in my eyes but the winners were Dave & Tracey from Wellington in Shropshire. Well done to them.

After the competition Wildcat Pete announced the sad news that Chuck Berry had passed away aged 90. I thought that although it's obviously sad to hear, it's fitting to hear it at a Rock 'n' Roll event and respect can be paid by the bands and DJ's. So if you've never seen Charlie Gracie, where have you been? Now 80 years young, the legend from Philadelphia first visited the UK 60 years ago and has been gigging ever since. Always popular in Britain, his gigs are full of energy and stories of his incredible career. Although not particularly successful in the charts, he plays classic Rock 'n' Roll tracks along with his own hits, 'Fabulous' and 'Butterfly'. He's renowned for his guitar playing but at 80? Really? He's as good as ever and was backed by Some Like It Hot. This was a terrific show. Celebrating his 59th wedding anniversary with his lovely wife Joan who accompanies Charlie everywhere, he shows no sign of slowing down. Charlie was happy to spend time signing stuff and chatting with fans after his set for over an hour, what a legend. Charlie was originally booked exclusively to perform at Shake, Rattle & Roll by promoter Jerry Chattabox but was also booked to do a couple more gigs before returning home. Some promoters would have had a problem with this but credit to Jerry for letting it go and putting the music and punters first.

DJ Rockin' Eddie had a longer than expected slot as Graham Fenton was due up next with his band, The Midnight Dynamos. There was panic behind the scenes when it became apparent that they hadn't been booked so who are you gonna call? Andy Williams and Some Like It Hot of course! These guys are amazing. No rehearsal - they just had to go out there with five minutes notice and play Graham Fenton's set list. So a little later than expected, Graham Fenton and Some Like It Hot were the last band on Saturday night. Graham is a huge Gene Vincent fan and incorporates Gene Vincent's style and mannerisms. Looking good all in black with still jet black hair, the set was influenced by Gene Vincent and hits from the Matchbox days. I headed to the bar for a final pint before going back to the caravan before the end of the set as once again it had been a long day and had officially been Sunday for an hour and a half by now.

Sunday started at 10am with the 1950's boot sale. Stalls were set up in the V arena with everything from second hand clothes and Frank's amazing record stall to bric-a-brac and handmade 1950's style gifts. I loved the handmade card stall and we got a couple for our mum for mother's day. You have to get there early to grab the really good stuff but we were there for 11.30am and there was plenty left. I'd spotted some shoes I fancied at one of the traders on Saturday night but couldn't decide between leopard, cheetah or zebra print for the uppers but after sleeping on it I decided to order some black leather shoes with leopard print uppers to be hand made by Johnson shoes of Essex. 110 for handmade British shoes seemed a good price to me and I can't wait to get them.

Terry Dene was still around and treated himself to a jacket that Frank had for sale as he wandered round the room with his beautiful partner, Countess Lucia Liberati and kindly stopped for a chat. Life is still good for him. We headed back for a quick late breakfast and cuppa but were back at 3pm to see Andy Williams and Some Like It Hot do their own set for a change. I love their stuff and they do a good mix with some different tracks. Lots of Rockabilly which I think is their forte and I liked Bobby Verne's 'Red Hot Car' and Lee Dresser's 'El Camino Real'. They also did a Chuck Berry tribute, 'Roll Over Beethoven'. The room was nicely busy with plenty of dancers who had found some afternoon dancing energy from somewhere. I stayed to listen to Mad Andy Munday playing some tracks for a while. He plays more obscure tracks and I often hear tracks I don't recall hearing before.

We'd booked for Sunday dinner in the site restaurant at 5pm so off we trotted although it didn't seem that long ago we were having breakfast. They do a three meat roast with plenty of veg, potatoes and all the trimmings so we all opted for that with a pudding added for an extra 3. It was perfect although the choice of puddings was narrowed down a little as they ran out of some but we each managed to select something. We headed back to the caravan for another quick change and back out again before we knew it. Janet hadn't made it out on Saturday night as she was just too tired so she was determined to make the most of the last night. Steve was heading home because he had to work on Monday morning so it was just the three of us who took our usual seats in the V arena for Sunday night's offering which I'd promised my sisters would be the best night.

Rockhouse were already belting out some tunes when we arrived and had added their own version of 'Promised Land' as a tribute to Chuck Berry. They also paid a tribute to their friend Dave Hawkins who'd passed away recently. Rockhouse have been around forever and play energetic Rock 'n' Roll and Rockabilly tracks. They set up the Sunday evening nicely with some up-tempo tracks including 'Gonna Type A Letter' and 'Rudy's Rock' for their encore.

Rockin' Eddie kept the tempo going before it was time for the Rock-A-Toons, who played the best set I'd seen them play. Great fun to watch as well as listen to. I think they're tighter than ever and supplied track after track of classics, such as 'Rip It Up', 'Flatfoot Sam' and 'Sea Cruise' along with 'Hot Dog', the instrumental 'Peter Gunn' and great jiver 'Talk To Me'. A really full on set which was a fine warm-up to one of my all-time favourite live bands, Lucas & The Dynamos who were on next after Wildcat Pete played his last set of the weekend. Lucas & The Dynamos don't play as much these days and it amazes me that they're just so natural together as if they play every day. They exploded into their set with Bill Haley's 'Marie' and 'Goofin' Around'. Jumping around the stage like teenagers they must work-ou tbetween gigs to keep up their fitness levels. They have such an extensive repertoire and they often produce a track I can't remember them doing before. They'd borrowed 'Little Pig' for tonight from The Polecats who'd pinched it from someone else and a stirring version of 'Dixie' which was a theme tune from my early Rockin' days in the 1970's.

11.30pm on Sunday night is usually bedtime for me and I knew Ellen & Janet were tired but thought I should catch the beginning of Greggi G & His Crazy Gang to get a couple of photos then head off to bed. Some people had already drifted off as they had work commitments or maybe it was just plain tiredness setting in. It was after all, coming to a close, but Greggi had other ideas. I was at the stage with my camera when they started and the beat was fantastic. I was sad to be calling it a night after their first couple of tracks which included 'Mr. Big Feet' which I love. I've promised myself I'll catch them at my local Rock 'n' Roll club, the Pitstop near Coventry next time they play. We couldn't even manage a wind down cup of tea when we got back. Straight to sleep and before I knew it morning had broken and it was time to pack up, head back home and back to normality until the next time. It's true to say that the line-up of bands wasn't as good as last year in my opinion and I heard others mention that too. But it was still a terrific weekend and the park and facilities are first class. Thanks Maggie for asking me to cover Shake, Rattle & Roll. It's always hard work but great fun all the same.